19 Nov 2016

HyperNormalization -- the review

I've watched, enjoyed and learned from Adam Curtis's other documentaries ("Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace" and "The Century of the Self") but his most recent, "HyperNormalization" is extremely timely, as it starts with a trend of deception in the 1970s that delivers Trump's victory just 10 days ago.

Perhaps the most important part is that social media companies -- which make money from serving advertisements (and thus want you to visit and click often) -- are entirely fine with (a) misinformation, (b) echo chambers, and (c) personalized reality.*

Their goal is not to show you the truth or to force people to face and engage over different perspectives. The goal of companies like Facebook, Breitbart, Twitter, Huffington Post, et al. is that you get angry and click a lot. Do those clicks force others to see your perspectives and insights? No, because they also isolated by the same algorithms. The resulting segmentation into isolated communities yelling online does nothing to affect life and policies in the real world, where the 1 percent are left to find new and interesting ways to deepen their power and increase their wealth at a cost to all.**

Can you make Facebook work for you, like the protestors at Tahrir Square used it to help their rebellion? I don't think so, since The Algorithm is NOT optimized to help you. It's designed to make money.***

Bottom Line Helpless anger and depression is not a bug. It's a feature. I give this documentary FIVE stars for revealing a lot of fact to be fiction.

* Years ago, I said that Facebook could NOT be good for users, as its revenue model was not subscription charges but advertisements. I joked that FB would only be able to make money by blackmailing people like me with personal information, but now I see that FB is *still* making money off of me b/c every article I share or click on generates money to facebook from the media companies that depend on Facebook for readers (and thus people to click on THEIR advertisements).

** I wrote this in 2010:
FB is often Fakebook, a place where people create their perfect version of themselves. That's not an issue per se (we all like to see our best sides), but this exercise can get out of control, so that people spend more time living in an imaginary world and less time face-to-face with people who see them in all their dimensions, good and bad.

*** I got so angry writing this, that I deactivated my Facebook account. (No, you can't delete your profile because Facebook, like the Hotel California, can never be left. FB will use your data forever.)

On choosing to "deactivate," Facebook The Algorithm argues with you, using psychological manipulation. First, there's the guilt trip:

Then there are arguments against your reason for leaving.

I just said "other," i.e., Facebook's advertising model serves companies, not me.

Addendum. "It’s time to get rid of the Facebook “news feed,” because it’s not news" and "Mark Zuckerberg – Dead At 32 – Denies Facebook Has Problem With Fake News" and "Facebook should hire me to audit their algorithm"

H/T to RM
For all my reviews, go here.